National Flood Insurance Program
The U.S Congress established the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) with the passage of the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968. The NFIP is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and enables property owners in participating communities to purchase insurance as protection against flood losses in exchange for state and community floodplain management regulations that reduce future flood damages.
In California, approximately 99 percent of California communities participate in the NFIP. Of the participating communities, approximately 18 percent participate in the Community Rating System (CRS) Program, which encourages communities to go above and beyond minimum NFIP requirements.
DWR, on behalf of FEMA, conducts Community Assistance Visits (CAVs) and Community Assistance Contacts (CACs) to each of the NFIP communities to provide individual technical assistance. DWR provides statewide NFIP workshops that are designed to interpret and explain the NFIP regulations and to give an overview of the need for community-based floodplain management.
The "National Flood Insurance Program in California Quick Guide" and the "Quick Guide for Coastal Communities" will help you understand more about why and how communities in California manage floodplains to protect people and property. Copies of these two publications may be requested by sending an email to: DWR_NFIP@water.ca.gov.
Flood-prone communities adopt ordinances that detail the rules and requirements for floodplain development. In case of conflicts, the community’s ordinance and/or building codes and not the Quick Guide, must be followed. If you have questions, be sure to talk with your local planning, permit, engineering, or floodplain management officials.
The Community Assistance Visit (CAV) is a major component of the NFIP's Community Assistance Program (CAP). Staff from FEMA or from a state agency on behalf of FEMA visits a community to provide technical assistance to the community and assure that the community is adequately enforcing its floodplain management regulations. In California, the CAV is either performed by staff from FEMA Region IX or from the Department of Water Resources.
A CAV consists of a tour of the floodplain, an inspection of community permit files, and meetings with local appointed and elected officials. FEMA and DWR workshops also assist community officials to learn how to comply with NFIP requirements. We will work with the community to help bring their program into compliance with NFIP requirements. In extreme cases where the community does not take action to bring itself into compliance, FEMA may initiate an enforcement action against the community.
We provide assistance to communities and their constituents in the form of floodplain information. We work to increase awareness for individuals exposed to the perils of flooding and about the importance for good floodplain management programs at the individual level as well as at all governmental levels. Assistance can be provided in the form of outreach, education, providing general information, or site visits to assist for specific issues. DWR has floodplain management specialists in each of our regional offices to answer questions. DWR has floodplain management specialists in each of our regional offices to answer questions.
Building Code Resources
The flood provisions of the California Building Standards Code, CCR Title 24, meet or exceed the minimum NFIP requirements for buildings and structures. California communities can rely on the building codes and local floodplain management regulations to fulfill the requirements for participation in the NFIP.
2019 California Building Standards Code (CCR Title 24)
- Excerpts of the flood provisions (A copy of this publication may be requested by sending an email to: DWR_NFIP@water.ca.gov.)
- Highlights of ASCE 24 Flood Resistant Design and Construction (FEMA Building Science)
Many California communities have adopted floodplain management requirements that exceed – are “higher” than – the minimum requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program. Some higher standards affect the design of buildings, while others apply to development other than buildings. In addition to reducing future flood losses, some higher standards may qualify for credit under the NFIP’s Community Rating System.
DWR prepared sample language to modify local floodplain management regulations. The basis for those samples is the 2020 FEMA-approved Model Ordinances written to coordinate with the California building code. Communities that do not use the 2020 model will still find the sample language useful for amending existing regulations. Electronic copies of the higher standards will be linked to this page in February 2021 when they meet ADA requirements. Copies may be requested by sending an email to: DWR_NFIP@water.ca.gov.
Higher Standards for Buildings
1. Additional building height (freeboard)
2. Cumulative substantial improvement
3. Dwellings designed in accordance with ASCE 24
4. Limit size of enclosures
5. Limit use of fill to elevate buildings and/or dwellings
6. Nonconversion agreements (for accessory structures and enclosures below elevated building)
7. Prohibit enclosures below elevated buildings
8. Repetitive flood loss (substantial damage)
Other Higher Standards
9. Compensatory storage
10. Designating the Floodplain Administrator
11. Determining BFE in unnumbered Zone A
12. Flood hazard map other than FIRM
13. Flood protection setback along waterways
14. Manufactured home Limitations
15. Subdivision limitations
Certified Floodplain Managers
DWR developed the model ordinances available on this page to help communities adopt local regulations that are written to work with the flood provisions of the California Building Standards Code (CCR Title 24) for buildings and structures in special flood hazard areas. Excerpts of the flood provisions are available by sending a request through email.
Please review the Frequently Asked Questions About the California Building Code-Coordinated Floodplain Management Model Ordinances.
Two sets of model ordinances are available below:
- Companion Ordinance. Communities may adopt regulations based on the “Companion Ordinance” which, combined in the flood provisions of CCR Title 24, includes everything necessary to fulfill the requirements for participating in the National Flood Insurance Program.
- Title 24 Appendix G. Alternatively, communities may decide to locally adopt Title 24 Part 2, Appendix G: Flood-Resistant Construction using the model ordinance to modify it. Please note that Appendix G must be re-adopted each time the California Building Standards Commission adopts a new edition of the building code.
Note: Electronic copies of the model ordinances will be linked to this page in February 2021. Copies may be requested by sending an email to: DWR_NFIP@water.ca.gov.
- Frequently Asked Questions about the 2020 California Building Code-Coordinated Floodplain Management Model Ordinances
- 2019 CCR Title 24 Flood Excerpts (PDF file locked)
- California Model Ordinance for Zone A Only
- Instructions and Notes: Zone A Only
- Model Ordinance Cross Reference Check Tool
- California Model Ordinance for Zones A and V
- Instructions and Notes: Zones A and V
- Model Ordinance Cross Reference Check Tool
Workshops and Training
Intended Audience: Consulting engineers and surveyors, floodplain administrators, building, planning, and public works staff from communities participating in the National Flood Insurance Program
- Elevation certificate purpose and definitions;
- Special Flood Hazard Area Zones;
- How to use the Flood Insurance Rate Map;
- Determining lowest floor;
- Completion of the New FEMA elevation certificate
Intended Audience: Floodplain administrators, government officials and building, planning, and public works staff from communities participating in the National Flood Insurance Program
- Federal role/state role/community role,
- Floodplain management vs. flood control,
- Duties of the local administrator,
- NFIP compliance,
- FEMA elevation certificate,
- Substantial improvement and substantial damage,
- Technical standards,
- Map reading & maintenance,
- Flood insurance
Intended Audience: Floodplain managers with more than 2 years of experience, local community officials and other NFIP stakeholders seeking a CFM® designation.
Workshop Topics: This one day workshop is designed as a review course of basic floodplain management principles for those who are considering taking the examination to become Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM®). This full-day review is not a replacement for studying for the exam. Attendees should not expect to complete this workshop and pass the CFM® exam without additional study. Suggested additional materials to study, for those intending to become a CFM®, can be found on the Association for State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) website . Attendance at this course is not a guarantee of passing the CFM® exam. Additional training is provided by FEMA through the Emergency Management Institute (EMI).
Intended Audience: Floodplain administrators, engineers, engineering technicians, and consultant engineers that have a thorough knowledge of the NFIP regulations.
- NFIP regulations for Zone A;
- Sources of existing Base Flood Elevations;
- Development of Base Flood Elevations – simplified method (contour interpolation and data extrapolation method) and detailed methods;
- Quick-2 program example
Intended Audience: Floodplain administrators, building, planning, and public works staff from communities participating in the National Flood Insurance Program, and consulting engineers and surveyors
- Purpose and definition of substantial improvement;
- Determining improvement costs and estimating market values of structures;
- Rehabilitations, additions, and reconstruction of structures;
- Recommended procedures;
- Post-disaster considerations and increased cost of compliance coverage
- Association of State of Floodplain Managers
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
- FEMA Map Service Center
- FEMA Flood Map Service Center FAQs
- Flood Hazard Mapping: Frequently Asked Questions
- Floodplain Management Association
- How to Buy Flood Insurance
- National Flood Hazard Layer Viewer
- Questions and Answers about the NFIP
Note: The Department of Water Resources does not maintain elevation certificates; however, the local floodplain administrator might have more information.
Sacramento Headquarters Office
State of California NFIP Coordinator
3464 El Camino, Ste. 210
Sacramento, CA 95821
CAP-SSSE Grant Administrator
3464 El Camino, Ste. 210
Sacramento, CA 95821
Northern Region Office
North Central Region Office
South Central Region Office
Southern Region Office